Devotional Thought for this day:
23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man* to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. John 12:23-26
If you want to be faithful and fruitful, our homilies should always disseminate and harvest hope.
Later they will know that they are to be educated to be pastors. Afterward they will offer their services when some position is unoccupied. That is to say, they will not force their way in but will indicate that they are prepared, in case anybody should ask for them; thus they will know whether they should go. It is like a girl who is trained for marriage; if anybody asks her, she gets married. To force one’s way in is to push somebody else out. But to offer one’s service is to say, ‘I’ll be glad to accept if you can use me in this place.’ If he is wanted, it is a true call. So Isaiah said, ‘Here I am. Send me’ [Isa. 6:8]. He went when he heard that a preacher was needed. This ought to be done.
There is a lot to being a pastor, to preaching the word, to ensuring people receive the sacraments. It is a calling from God and recognized by the church. You go when you are needed, as Luther discusses. And yet, there is a question of recognizing the need, and responding to it.
The passage in red, from the gospel is one message that needs to be proclaimed. It seems to ask for a lot, for the believer to follow Jesus and sacrifice himself for the needs of others. It seems different than Pope Francis’s words about providing and havesting hope.
Do I preach about self-sacrifice and Christlikeness? Or
Do I give a message of hope?
Or is there a third option, to so clearly preach about being in Christ that one realize the hope found in self-sacrifice. That is the challenge when presented with the dilemna of preaching this or that. It is not one or the other, it is where they intersect, and that intersection always is found where we meet Jesus. For our greatest hope is found when and where we are closest to Christ, when the Holy Spirit is transforming us into His image. There, no matter the sacrifice, the work of God is seen, a work that is joyful beyond anything else we can experience.
It’s not preach self-sacrifice or preach hope. It is both/and… in Christ Jesus
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 110.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 80.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
Philippians 2:1-5 (MSG)
947 May you acquire the custom of concerning yourself every day about others, and give yourself to the task so much that you forget you even exist!
Many of us live in our own world, A world, that though we are broken, is chock full of stuff that gives us little chance ot be who we are. In reality, it gives us little chance ot find out who we are. And finding meaning in our lives? After so many years, it seems useless, and perhaps, even a waste of time.
I think part of our problem is trying to determine who we are from some theoretical, philosophical or even psychological study. These tools can tell me a lot of things about me, but they don’t tell me who I am. For example, my MBTI personality type is ENFP, and as I read the description, I resonate with it. It describes aspects of my personality, of my traits and behaviors.
However, I am more than that.
Ultimately, we are the children of God, the men, and women that Jesus says He no longer addresses as servants, but as friends, beloved friends. We are, as the church and as individuals, being transformed into the image of Christ, therefore the image of God.
And His nature should begin to be seen in us.
That is what St. Paul is talking about, this idea of being like Christ. Not that we have to or we aren’t saved, our merits gain us nothing in view of salvation. We are like Jesus because of the incredible love and comfort He pours out on us. If you have experienced this love, this fellowship with Christ, then we do begin to lose ourselves in Him, caring for those who He has brought into our lives. As we realize His love for us, that love is passed on to others, even to those the world tells us it is impossible to love. It is what happens
And our life is saved by losing it. By taking up the cross and following Him.
That is what St. Josemaria talks about as well, as we minister to the various broken people, ministering to the least of these, the sick, the imprisoned, the widow and orphan, the brokenhearted, to mourning, the hurting, the lost. We do it because as we are in fellowship with God, there is no other option, it becomes natural. (see article VI of the Augsburg Confession)
This is how we find “ourselves,” this is how we know who we are.
We are His.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3843-3845). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 “You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. Exodus 20:3-5 (NLT)
Arrogance, the ontological lie by which man makes himself God, is overcome by the humility of God, who makes himself the slave, who bows down before us. The man who wants to come close to God must be able to look upon him—that is essential. But he must likewise learn to bend, for God has bent himself down. In the gesture of humble love, in the washing of feet, in which he kneels at our feet—that is where we find him.
Scripture tells us that we were created in the image of God, and it tells us that we are to imitate Him. (1 Cor 11:1) It tells us we are transformed into His image ( Romans 12, 2 Cor. 3)
I think somehow we have twisted this, instead of reflecting God’s image to the world, we reflect our image into what we see as God. We are more subtle than the ancients who created their idols of brass and gold, from wood and stone. Instead, the image we create serves our vanity, it serves our desires, our will.
Will the image of God we see look like us? And if so, will it be the image of one who kneels, who washes feet, who cares for the poor, who welcomes the alien, the sick, the prisoner? Will we, who want encounter God be willing to encounter and look like the one who was bruised and broken for others?
Is our the glory that we see in God the glory of His love for us, as His suffering brings us healing and wholeness? Or do we want to see Him perfect, unmarred, triumphant, unbreakable?
We need to see the Lord who washes our feet, who bandages our wounds, who is broken and marred and crucified, for us. Are we willing to be patient, so that person doesn’t perish, so that person can be transformed into God’s image as well? We need to mee the God who is broken for us…for only there can we meet Him.
And for those of us who preach and teach about Jesus, what image of Him do we portray for people to imitate?
The God who loves us enough to bow down before us, or some other god..
Lord Jesus, help us to see your love, as you wash and heal us, serve us…and as you make us whole, help us to be there for others. AMEN!
Question to think through: How do you picture God? How does that affect your interactions with others?
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV)
329 We all need to foresee our lack of objectivity whenever we have to judge our own behaviour. This applies to you too. (1)
If we are to guide people to Jesus and the cross, we need to do it as He did.
In the passage above Jesus talks of being gentle and humble in Spirit. Look into the Greek a little and you will find the words underlying those two thoughts include words like empathetic, compassionate, caring, and subservient, self-sacrificing, not proud.
It is similar to the list of attributes that Paul lists in regards to love in 1 Corinthians 13, the love which is necessary for ministry, for preaching and prophesying. The unique combination of love and mercy that puts the good of the other first, no matter what the cost, even the cost of death. An interesting side note to this was from another devotional book of mine,
He reminded us that the scarlet robe of the cardinals is a symbol of their readiness to undergo martyrdom. The Church explains this in the formula: “He who wears it must be willing to defend the faith usque ad effusionem sanguinis—even to the shedding of blood.” (2)
It is that love that results in Jesus, and all who imitate and follow him to be gentle and humble in their ministry to others, calling them not to a legalistic obedience, but to hear God, and love Him back by walking with Him, (and therefore obeying, as the Old Testament promised from the law written on their hearts)
This isn’t an easy way to minister, and like the cardinals of old were reminded that their ministry could indeed include their martyrdom, we who minister, whether lay or clergy, have to be prepared to offer our lives as living sacrifices. (see Romans 12) For most of us, that doesn’t include a physical martyrdom, but one of our will, one of our hearts (which are circumcised by God – Col. 2)
Which is St Josemaria’s point in the quote in blue. We have to be aware of our lack of objectivity, we have to be able to recognize when “we” get in the way of His work. We need to examine ourselves and pray that God would eradicate in us the tendency to be proud and the spirit that is narcissistic.
Not because of some legalistic pietism, and not even so that we actually minister more effectively. Rather, because we are trusting God, realizing that walking with Him is walking in the promise our baptism, and in letting the Spirit transform us (see 2 Cor 3) more and more into His image results in this.
Gentle and humble, empathetic and self-sacrificing, ministering effectively because we are allowing ( and we grow to desire this ) God to crucify our egos, our lack of objectivity, even as we are embraced by God on that same cross. We learn to depend upon Him that much.
This is the life of faith, it is time to live it, it is time to enjoy this peace. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1546-1547). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought of The Day:
33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a bowl;p instead, he puts it on the lamp-stand, so that people may see the light as they come in. 34Your eyes are like a lamp for the body. When your eyes are sound, your whole body is full of light; but when your eyes are no good, your whole body will be in darkness. 35Make certain, then, that the light in you is not darkness. 36If your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be bright all over, as when a lamp shines on you with its brightness.” Luke 11:33-36 TEV
Constantine the Great, having written with great respect to St. Anthony, the religious about him were greatly astonished. “Why,” said he, “do you feel astonished that a king should write to a man? Be astonished, rather, that the Eternal God should have written down his law to mortal men; yea, more, should have spoken to them by word of mouth in the person of his Son.” (1)
God does not want
a house built by people,
but faithfulness to his word
and acceptance of his design.
It is God himself
who builds the house
but of living stones
marked by his Spirit.
It is a blessing for parents of toddlers, this truth that out of sight, out of mind.
Yet it is true for us as adults as well, and then can become a curse if we aren’t careful. For the longer our eyes are taken off of something, the easier it is for us to forget and even neglect that which was once all important.
We can forget Him, if not completely, then enough to obscure who He is, what He has instilled in us.
His peace, His comfort, His mercy, His love.
And what it means to live life in reflection of that love. What Pope Francis calls “His design”, what He wills, the plans He has laid out for us. The more we neglect seeing Chirst in our lives, the more sin reigns, the more it makes sense, the more it offers false comfort, quickly fading imitations of joy, and quickly tires us out. A lack of seeing Christ leasd us to a life we cannot be satisfied with, on that quickly turns toxic, as we do what is right in our own eyes.
We need to regain this vision of Christ, we need to let His light enter through our eyes, to contemplate, to think about, to become enlightened to the depth of His love for us, His people, His family. We need to realize that not only did God love us enough to guide our lives with His law. but that He revealed us the love in and through Jesus.
He is our light, He is our life, and our thoughts need to be infused by the presence of our God. Not as in a rote behavior, or religious obligation, but as our very life. With the joy that comes from walking with One whose love for you is proven over and over.
So fill your eyes with Him! Fill your mind with those things that we praise Him for, things that are true, noble, holy, just, pure, lovely, sacrificial, (see Phil.4:8)
He is with you!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
(1) Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, 20 so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those who long for vile images and detestable idols, I will repay them fully for their sins. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!” Ezekiel 11:19-21 (NLT)
295 Any time is the right time to make an effective resolution, to say “I believe”, to say “I hope”, to say “I love”. (1)
A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
3 If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.
4 The purpose of this commandment, therefore, is to require true faith and confidence of the heart, and these fly straight to the one true God and cling to him alone. (2)
This morning, my devotional reading contained the green and blue quotes above. They are simple, they describe a simple life, they describe the Christian life.
I wish they described my life more, I long for that to be my reality.
Or rather, I desire that to be my only reality.
Like Paul, there seems to be a war within me, as various things compete to be my “god”. Or should I say, I choose to allow things to compete for that role. It is hard to admit, but I want leaders I can trust in, in whom I can entrust my life, my
It is hard to admit, but I want leaders I can trust in, in whom I can entrust my life, my family’s and my church’s future. I want them – both secular and church leaders who will be just and righteous, gracious and merciful. Yet I become cynical when they don’t provide when they don’t comfort; when they are proven to be as broken. For these “gods” I would entrust myself to fail.
But even more dangerous is for me to rebel from them, and make myself my God. It is an easy thing to do as well, encouraged by the world that tells me I have to look out for myself. The world that teaches us that we are the captain of our fate, that if we have the right attitude, and a strong enough world, we can achieve what we desire. The same world that laughs, or worse, ignores me, when I fall on my face, and can’t get up on my own.
Enough failures and my heart will become hard, crusted over with by scars and bruises. I want to become immune to the failures, and I become offensive, assured that it is better than being on the defensive. But the offensiveness offends, and I can’t endure my own heart, my own attitude, my own life.
It is amid these moments of not just being broken, but being shattered that I come across Luther and Escriva and so many others, men who knew their own brokenness, and battled it on their knees, and in the scriptures, Men who found incredible hope, and when all is said and done, the answer was simple.
Flee to God.
Cling to Him,
Believe Him and the promises He made us. Depend on them.
Find the hope for our healing in the new Spirit given us, and
Adore the God, who works in our lives. He who always cares for His people. My friends, you and I need, desperately need to believe in, find hope and live this God, who comes to us in our brokenness and replaces our broken hearts with one’s that find great joy is singing His praises.
This is the simple Christian life; one lives depending on God, clinging to Him. for He is our God.
It may seem too simple, but it is walking humbly with our Father, our God…..
Because of that, it is a life lived in sanctuary, and in great peace….
Lord Have mercy on us!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1199-1201). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Live a Life Filled With Love!
† In Jesus Name †
This is my prayer for you, that because of the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, you would desire to live a life filled with His love, and imitate Christ Jesus in everything you do.
The Difference Between Playing God.. and Imitating Him
It was once said that the sincerest form of compliment was for someone to imitate you.
Well, it is a compliment as long as they imitate something you like about yourself.
For example, a lady asking another lady for a recipe.
That’s a compliment.
Another pastor asking if he can use a sermon, or learn Chris’s liturgy music, those are compliments.
Someone choosing to become a teacher, or a doctor or even a pastor, because of the impact that a teacher, doctor or pastor had on their life.
Those are compliments as well!
Is someone trying to duplicate my golf swing?
That’s not a compliment; that is insanity!
In today’s epistle reading, there are two different models to imitate, to mimic. One is insanity; the other seems impossible, but it is actually rather simple.
One is imitating the Gentiles.
The other is imitating God.
One possible, the other insanity….
Imitating the World is Simply Playing God The Sin of Self Idolatry
Let’s deal with imitating the Gentiles. Or as Paul says, living like the Gentiles, following the patterns and lifestyles of the world.
It doesn’t require a Ph.D. in Psychology to see how crazy the world is.
Paul describes it well by saying that those living without a relationship with God are hopelessly confused, that their minds are lost in a darkness that consumes them. Paul goes on to describe them as close minded to God and having no sense of shame. They are people that live for whatever seems pleasurable, chasing after whatever is popular, no matter how degrading, how filthy, how degrading, how evil.
As long as it meets what they consider their needs….
Need for pleasure, for fun, for comfort, for approval. Or simply if it helps them get what they want. It is narcissism, self-centeredness Or put more simply, it is telling God his guidance is worthless, and replacing his rules with your own. Don’t worry about those ten commandments, or loving our neighbor, the world says. Scripture isn’t relevant or real! Do what seems right in your own eyes, and if peopled question you, tell them to not judge you.
That was the gGentilesattitude, it is definitely the world’s attitude today.
But there is a problem here… one we need to think through.
Lest we only judge those out in the world, I need you to recognize what Paul is telling this church, perhaps the most mature of all the churches he ministered to.
Look at this carefully
17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do,
Now, let’s think about this. You don’t have to tell people to not do something, unless they are doing it!
And if you are an apostle, you don’t have to add, “with the Lord’s authority”, unless you know they are really going to struggle with you on the matter.
The people in the church in Ephesus struggled with living like the world.
If we are honest, we struggle with it as well. It’s not that we really want to, but some habits are hard to break. Temptations can be hard to overcome.
Paul lists a bunch of sin, buts the key is in verse 22. Sin is the result of lives corrupted by two things, the first is lust, desiring things that aren’t yours. The second thing that corrupts our lives is what is translated as deception, but is more like seduction. The things that distract us, attract our attention and cause us to hunger for them.
The sin dominated one is a insane life, for we don’t have the wisdom to choose wisely. It is crazy to say we know better than God. That we know what is good for us.
But there is an option to imitating the world.
Imitating God The life of the Transformed
We need to make sure we understand the difference between playing God, and imitating God.
The gentiles and the world, and yes often we play God. That is sin.
But Paul calls us to imitate God, to follow the example of Jesus. That requires something important. You see a hint of it on the cover of the bulletin. It is a transformation as incredible as that which occurs when a hungry caterpillar becomes a majestic butterfly.
A transformation that begins when you were baptized.
A transformation that happens as Paul describes, in verse 23,
let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Unlike the butterfly, our transformation is started, empowered and completed by Christ. It occurs as we spend time realizing His presence in our lives, the promise of our Baptism. It happens as we contemplate how much He loves us, and the freedom that gives us.
For the old controlling forces that corrupted our lives have been broken and we are free to see God’s reconciliation spread, even as Paul describes
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
This is not a command as we think of it, and imperative you must. It is more like discovering something incredible, a blessing of proportions!
Bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, gossip, all evil behavior can be stripped off of us, and as we are united to Jesus, we find ourselves being dressed with God’s love, with His mercy, even as we begin to resemble Christ…even as we are being healed.
Because we are imitating God.
Like a child, wanting to be like his dad…
This is what happens when you trust in God, when you depend on Him.
We are changed, we are transformed… and instead of being locked into a life shaped and modeled by the world, we find something incredible, a journey through life, that as we mature, as we are drawn deeper and deeper into a relationship with Jesus… causes us to resemble Him more… and these words become our life
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love,
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day
34 And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34 (TEV)
“All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him. This is most certainly true.
“Thy kingdom come.” What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever.
824 Have you noticed how human love consists of little things? Well, divine love also consists of little things. (3)
Over the course of history, theologians have wasted a lot of time on the arguments about whether the scripture is applicable today. Some say the Old Testament law is no longer binding. Some say you only preach the law to those who are not believers. Others say that a lack of holiness, a lack of strict obedience to scripture (or at least certain parts of it) shows a lack of faith, and may result in the same judgment as an unbeliever.
What a colossal waste of time!
What a shameful waste of time and effort from those who are supposed to be our teachers, those who are to shepherd us.
The above quotes in green are from Luther’s small catechism. They were written to help a dad teach his children about God, about the precious relationship we have with them. They describe a relationship where God’s love and mercy transform us into His children. As His children, we respond to that love instinctually, we do what St Josemaria calls the “little things”. We think about Him (and His people) we take on the mundane, we sacrifice, all without thinking about it, because God loves us, and we adore Him.
This is the Godly life Luther mentions, caused by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We lose our desire to please ourselves, and we find pleasure in the presence of God and His people. We find ourselves devoted to the one who is devoted to us.
This isn’t Ph.D. level theology. It is a life of faith….
it is the response to crying out, “have mercy…” and realize He has….
Love Him, love those He loves…..you don’t need a Ph.D. for that… just the ability to do the little things.
 Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
 Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
(3) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1892-1893). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.